Port of Baltimore will be fully operational by end of May, governor says

The disaster on 26 March killed six construction workers and shut down one of the largest freight seaports on east coast

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 07 April 2024 22:57 BST
Coast guard describes conditions on ship that crashes into Baltimore bridge

The port of Baltimore will be reopened by the end of May, less than three months after the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse, Maryland's governor declared on Sunday.

The bridge collapsed on 26 March, killing six construction workers who were repairing roads and shutting down all sea lane access to the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest freight seaports on the East Coast. The federal government has already authorised $60m in relief funding for the disaster response effort, with hundreds of millions more expected to be needed before the project is completed.

The governor appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation and said that President Joe Biden’s goal of completing work to reopen both the federal and state shipping channels by the end of May was possible to achieve with “24/7” effort from first responders, recovery diving teams, and teams tasked with removing the wreckage.

“It’s realistic,” Mr Moore said of goal to have the Port of Baltimore fully reopened by the end of May. “We are going to do everything in our power to make sure we’re bringing closure and comfort to these families, to be able to reopen this channel, to be able to support our workers and support families who have been impacted by it, and also begin the process of the rebuild of the bridge.”

“It is an aggressive timeline, but we are going to work around the clock to make sure that we hit this timeline,” said the governor, who noted that salvage teams have already removed “hundreds of tons” of steel and concrete from the Patapsco River.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore shakes hands with President Joe Biden as they visit the site of the Key Bridge collapse on 5 April
Maryland Governor Wes Moore shakes hands with President Joe Biden as they visit the site of the Key Bridge collapse on 5 April (Getty Images)

The US Army Corps of Engineers “tentatively expect[s] to open a limited access channel for ... some vessels that move automobiles and farm equipment by the end of April”, the White House said this week. It added that workers should be able to “restore the port to normal capacity by the end of May”.

President Biden pledged the support of the nation during his visit to the scene of the collapse on Friday, telling Mr Moore that he expects Congress to rally to their cause and pass funding for the reconstruction effort as well.

“We’re going to move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as rapidly as humanly possible,” the president said. “We will do so with union labor and American steel.”

”My vow is: We will not rest...until the cement has dried and the entirety of a new bridge, a new bridge, [is built].”

The collapse of the iconic bridge was a shock to the state of Maryland and represents a major threat to the economy of Baltimore, much of which is tied to the port. Currently, a limited channel is open allowing smaller vessels to pass through the scene of the collapse but larger container ships like the one responsible for striking a key support beam and destroying the bridge cannot reach the port.

The timeline for the construction of a new bridge remains unclear. The Francis Scott Key Bridge, opened in 1977, took five years to build but experts have cautioned that construction efforts may not take as long.

Mr Moore has hosted near-daily press conferences updating Marylanders on the collapse, which is believed to have killed six people. Members of law enforcement were able to block traffic on both sides of the bridge moments before the destruction occurred, but a six-member team of construction workers who according to local officials were “filling potholes” were not able to be evacuated in time. Three deceased individuals have been recovered from the waters so far; the search continues for the bodies of the remaining workers.

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